Nokia Takes the Fight to America

Embattled Finnish mobile-phone giant Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) has finally taken the wraps off its latest, greatest, and fastest smartphone -- the Lumia 900. It's the phone that's supposed to spearhead the company's resurgence in the U.S., but will it?

When looking backward is actually forward-looking
The Lumia 900 is 4G capable and designed to work on AT&T's (NYSE: ATT  ) high-speed, LTE cellular network. Compared with earlier Lumia devices, the latest model has a 4.3-inch screen. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop touted this feature in particular, telling Financial Times that "Americans tend to watch more mobile video than people elsewhere, and they always think bigger is better." The phone also has a backward-facing camera, to facilitate video chatting.

The handset itself is quite sleek and ergonomically designed, easily rivaling that of Apple's iPhone. It will run, of course, on Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows phone operating system, one that has gotten good reviews and distinguishes itself in presentation from others, with an operation that lets the user toggle between apps in a much more organic fashion than either Apple's iPhone or a handset running Google's Android operating system.

Can I join the club?
The Lumia 900 was born from the much-ballyhooed alliance between Nokia and Microsoft, two industry giants that had un-Foolishly let themselves fall behind in the enormously profitable smartphone market. Now with AT&T onboard, the alliance has taken on a new member and an interesting turn.

Out of the five top U.S. cellular carriers, AT&T has by far the least amount of 4G coverage. AT&T needs a top-of-the-line smartphone product it can tout just as much as Nokia and Microsoft. By bringing AT&T into the club and turning a duo into a trio, all three of these companies are placing big bets on each other in the hopes they can inject themselves back into the smartphone market.

Hey, over here!
To make this alliance work, all three companies, but especially Nokia, will have to spend money on advertising and marketing to get the phone known nationwide by consumers. And AT&T will need to ensure that the Lumia 900s are prominently displayed in stores and online, and that sales staff don't ignore them. That explains the initial emphasis on AT&T exclusivity -- i.e., training for sales staff is a big part of the marketing push that will go into the Lumia 900, Elop told Financial Times.

Finally, your Foolish columnist has said it before and will say it again: There's room in the smartphone market for a third major player, and these three companies have the size, reach, and financial firepower to pull it off.

Of course, if the three musketeers of the smartphone industry aren't your cup of technological tea, learn about three companies perfectly positioned to cash in on the booming smartphone market in this Motley Fool special free report, "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution. Get your copy while it's hot.

Fool contributor John Grgurich worked in the cell-phone industry when the latest and great handheld phone was still lovingly referred to as "the brick," but he owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool, however, owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a scintillating disclosure policy.


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